With this album, [89], (tall) Joey B seems to be redefining himself, by recoiling into his own interior. The latest singles off this project –which surprisingly also happens to be his first album –all point to someone interrogating their own emotions in lonely silence (all 89 shades of them).

The reason we know Joey B, born Darryl Paa Kwesi Bannerman-Williams, is his   massive 2013 success, Tonga (ft. Sarkodie), which might also refer to the female genitals in local slang. 

The azonto which we knew, or were restricted to, till Joey B’s Tonga in 2013, was mostly based on a frantic kpa kpa kpa –kpa kpa. Joey B’s contribution to the azonto sound therefore is this: he presented a slower variant, and if you like, gave it a gentle and tidy touch. This sound, he achieved, or more appropriately, created  with Dj Breezy. Like his name, the atmosphere Dj Breezy created with Tonga,  along with most of his subsequent offerings are…breezy. They’re simplistic, possess a lightness, and are exciting, overall.

But Tonga is completely dissimilar to the new batch of emotions Joey seems to leak lately. Actually, Tonga holds no real emotion at all –only copious flirtation dangerously/creatively within an inch of  profanity. Tonga is witty and fun, and purposely for the club and party. It is surely among the most popular songs these past few years.

Joey B can never really shred himself of Tonga image, but [89] is/ is turning out to be such a beautiful deviation from Tonga vibes. He’s still tall, still soft-spoken, still takes off his shirt, or wears sweaters from “89. But in You x Me, for instance, the feelings are especially arresting.  The accompanying video, a greatly symbolic and brilliantly artistic  delivery by Khemist Gold, shows him wandering a house rid of warmth,  affection (and all D-Black), and how he’s coming to terms with this new emptiness. Another video, Fiend, shows him (of course) bare-chested at the base of a waterfall worshiping himself. Fiend might, in the end, be more a consequence of excessively ambitious art than much else. 

Aside the subtle flaunting of his new commitment to sports brand Adidas, these videos show Joey B by himself. The closest things to girls, who are a ‘prerequisite’ for contemporary music videos, are the mannequins which end up being shattered in You x Me. 

It is specifically this solitude, which might also be corroborated by  such themes as what  he reflects on in You x Me,  that captures my thoughts. Relax, I’m not saying  (tall) Joey is suicidal or anything. After all, in FOH, which also features budding AMG rapper, Medikal, it’s a celebration of his journey and victories. But let’s explore this loneliness, someday it may be useful to us. 

I hold a firm conviction that this solitude and inward reflection are the intended tone of [89], which is presumably also Joey’s year of birth.  And when you decide to name an album (especially your first album) after your date of birth, it’s bound to be both biographical and soulful.

“You and I, we need to talk”.

Joey’s voice (alone), because it’s only slightly above a whisper, has always held an air of weighty sentiment, and indeed, on a song like Otoolege (ft. Samini), this can be observed.

The texture of his his voice, therefore beckons attention. Most singing requires a certain level of vocal commitment, i.e, emphasis on high notes and memorable adlibs. Joey sidesteps all this and still conveys a sentiment which is intact. There’s little to learn technically, because the singing is too shy…too safe ( then again, we know Joey’s forte to be witty rap, not singing, even though he’s done significantly ample singing in his career) .  At the same time, there’s so much to learn about the quality of his voice to convey a particular softness in emotion.

Kuvie made You x Me, which obviously is an effective way to decipher the (new) Joey B.  Joey’s voice lingers cautiously and strictly on the beat, which embodies the liveliness of highlife music. Maybe it’s all that guitar and saxophone we hear.  It also feels psychedelic at points of break. We hear that in Pappy Kojo’s Awo’a too, so it’s gradually becoming Kuvie’s signature. 

With this song too, with these powerful drum-kicks too, Kuvie is steadily amassing momentum and presence –the new Dj Breezy, if you like –except that Kuvie seems to have more edge, experimenting with all  these horns and guitars. 

It’s not exactly surprising that Kuvie would have  something with  Joey B soon after Awo’a — Joey’s cameo in Awo’a was enough hint. These two have popped up in each other’s space very often: these past few years, they’ve frequently collaborated, recruited the same producers for their hip hop and mid-tempos. They even appear to have synchronised fashion methods. They not only are tall and good to look at, they also apply hammers from the same tool box. Their styles are both original and independent of each other, yet they appear  to come from identical orientations musically. 

Back to Joey’s sadness/depression/solitude. How important is ‘solitude’ to an artist like Joey B? Well, immediately, his voice, the way it feels, is an accurate conduit for themes from solitude: heartbreak, grief, reflection, and then resolve –for his voice is soft and gentle, mildly haunting, and level in focus.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with expressing how I feel/ you don’t know what’s wrong, especially how I feel”.

In the end, [89] could end up being a key page in Joey’s coming of age, because in the end, solitude might be where all great art comes from, for with solitude comes introspection, and self- introspection is the ultimate quest to personal truth. 

This (new) Joey B stirs both new excitement and new nervousness. I only wish he has not entirely left his bona fide adlib, which excites and stings in equal measure: 



[89] is officially Joey B’s first album. It is scheduled for release under World Records. 




Gabriel Myers Hansen is editor for enewsgh.com. Follow him on Twitter @myershansen








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